All of a sudden the hustle and bustle, the cows, pigs, chicken, and horses in the streets, the people walking on highways, riding in truck beds, the sensory overload of liveliness we had experienced in Central America so far, disappeared. But still it is filled with something different. Something very beautiful. People here often greet each other with “Pura Vida” – “pure life”. There’s something about that.
We found Costa Rica to have extremely contrasting sides. There’s the rich-tourist-side, with zip lining, and guided tours, and expensive hotels, and there’s this pura-vida-wild-stunning-nature-side, with free public beaches, and incredible wild life. Compared to the previous countries we’ve traveled through, it feels much more organised and safer. There are even McDonalds and Subways. Prices are high. Military and armed guards are absent and it is full of nature. In fact this is a country which actually abolished its army.
Our first stop in Costa Rica was Tamarindo, a beach town in the northwest of the country. It feels very American in this area, and I’m shamefully admitting that the first thing we did was eating at Subway, with much delight. Our beloved road buddies Kerri and Evan, whom we met in Mexico, offered that we could stay at her mom’s place for a few days, which was a wonderful relief and break to regain some energy. We can’t thank them and Kerri’s mom enough! Sarah’s upset stomach and the strong rain since Guatemala was draining us a little and we were thankful to spend a relaxed Halloween.
The weather gave good reason to stay put for a few days.
We went on a shopping spree at the local supermarket which offered all the foreign goods an expat’s heart could desire, and went into hibernation mode. It was so exciting for us to have an apartment with a full kitchen, hot showers, and even AC. We had no desire to leave the apartment at all. Instead we cooked, ate, slept, worked, cooked, and ate some more.
A good time to refill our bellies, and do some work. Thanks to internet and teleconferences we are able to continue some graphic design and concept work on the road. We are grateful to have wonderful clients and colleagues who take this journey with us!
Some Costa Ricans took this “trick or treat” thing a bit too literal. So they put gloves on and started emptying a few of the neighbour’s apartments at night. Luckily, we had turned into insomniacs — having such an unfamiliar thing like a solid roof over our heads – and we were still awake when a man was trying to brake into the spare bedroom. Erdem could scare him away by making noise.
When we called the local police at night, they told us they were sorry but don’t have enough personnel (only 2! in the whole town), and couldn’t send anyone.
The next morning there was quite a commotion and the police finally had to come when two neighbours reported actually having been robbed while sleeping, including computers, phones, and all their shoes! The rest of the nights we slept with a knife next to our bedside in order to continue the Halloween spirit…
We were about to move on, when we got note that our friends, the Dauphin family, fell ill in El Salvador. Their daughter Eva, as well as her dad Jerome got the Chikungunya, a mosquito transmitted disease, similar to Dengue but not quite as bad. Nevertheless, after dealing with hospitals in Nicaragua, and their recovery, they were exhausted. Kerri invited them to come to Tamarindo as well, so we waited to at least give them big hugs and have a little time together. The traveling French family is a great inspiration to us, and mastered even this difficult situation with ease.
We had a fun day at the beach with Eva while the rest of the family stayed home to relax.
When it was time to say good-bye the howler monkeys magically paid us a visit, just like when we had met the Dauphin’s for the first time in Palenque, Mexico. It seems this time we really depart, since they will head back north, and we are continuing our journey south to Patagonia. But we never know with this crazy bunch. We said it’s the last time several times before… We sure do hope to meet them again.
At last the gang was (almost) reunited. We wish Kerri and Evan could have been there too!
Thank you Gail for lending us your home!
After this time of hibernation and reconnection, we embarked on our journey through Costa Rica. Continuing to travel down the Nicoya peninsula we spent our first night at Playa Samara, a beautiful long sandy beach.
We felt like there was a glitch in the Matrix. Things were too perfect, until five of the exact same dogs appeared one after another.
Carrying on through bumpy roads we encountered our first substantial river crossings. Oh what a joy for Erdem!
Some of the interesting critters we encountered.
Mal Pais was, despite its name, one of our favourite places on this journey. We really enjoyed camping Elimar, with the beautiful tide pools along the beach.
This grilled fish made the place mega-perfect!
In the morning there were some unexpected visitors. We often have some dogs or cats coming to our camp to ask for food, but never did we find wild roaming horses before… They weren’t satisfied with carrots and proceeded to steal our soap.
The next stop before the ferry to Puntarenas was Playa Organos where we stayed in a stunning, secluded area.
Traveling in Costa Rica by car is so much fun (at least if it’s 4WD) because there are so many absolutely beautiful places to camp and nature to explore!
The ferry from the Nicoya Peninsula back to the mainland.
Glad we were far enough away from these guys on the Tarcoles Crocodile Bridge. There are so many. Some of them got seriously damaged in fights. The one on the right has even lost its upper jaw.
That night we camped right before Manuel Antonio National Park. We had planned to visit the park but decided against it because they raised the prices too much this year. The free camping at the beach was wonderful though.
Arriving at El Chaman camping was magical.
A wonderful place with lots of fruit trees and coconut palms and the Shaman’s miraculous tree house with bats and black squirrels living on it.
Yummy eggs for breakfast.
Turkish yoghurt carrot salad.
Costa Rica is full of wild life.
Chaman took us on a little tour to El Pavon Waterfalls and some other interesting places in the area.
Chaman and Erdem perfectly synchronised.
We continued on South to the Osa Peninsula.
A brief interruption. Costa Rican police like to make sure all the paper work is in order.
Luckily the rivers on Osa weren’t too high. Sometimes they become uncrossable.
Continuing to explore the Osa peninsula we saw lots of Squirrel monkeys and Macaws. This place is brimming with wildlife.
We finally ended up at Carate Beach – our absolutely favourite spot so far. We felt like castaways, eating coconuts from the trees and roasting potatoes in the fire.
Carate beach was long and empty. We only spotted these two brown belts who had an outrageously skilled karate encounter. (This pictures is dedicated to the Karate Club Lustenau)
We had some lovely visitors stopping by the next day and fed them with coconuts. I guess we weren’t that castaway after all.
A fight about our coconut remains broke out.
The downside of living at the beach: Too many mosquito bites despite all measures. Erdem seems to be extra sweet, and with mosquito nets, long clothes, and deet they still get him. Recently also cockroaches seem to like him a bit too much.
The second night a big storm came in and we packed up to move a few yards away for more protection from wind and rain. Life by the beach can be heaven or hell in an instance.
The dense jungle at this camp was a great contrast to the scarce beach. What a giant tree!
Sarah’s parents had been to Costa Rica several years ago, with their karate club and wanted us to visit one of their favourite spots – the Esquinas Rainforest Lodge and the “Rainforest of the Austrians”. Yes, there is such a thing! This is a rainforest preservation project supported by the Austrian government and people, here in Costa Rica. With donations (including some of the club) a large area of rainforest was bought and protected from destruction and integrated into Piedras Blancas National Park.
We actually felt like in Austria.
We stayed at the Tropenstation La Gamba, the research station, largely sponsored by the university of Vienna, where biology students come to conduct research.
Erdem was more focused on conducting Nutella-research and enjoying German bread.
We were allowed to tag along for a night time expedition with the biologist Tobi, and Christina into the rainforest to collect grasshoppers and moths. Armin, a German Graphic designer, who works on his second book about moths, photographing these often overlooked beauties, was also a part of the team.
It was a long expedition.
Armin developed a great technique for photographing these creatures unharmed and alive. For his first book Schönbär und Nonne he collected over two hundred species in his backyard in Germany during four years. After only two weeks in Costa Rica he has found almost as many different species. That gives an idea about the incredible amount of bio diversity in this beautiful rainforest.
On our last days in Costa Rica we took Christina, the Austrian volunteer at the Tropenstation, on a little trip to the beach at Playa Pavones since she hadn’t seen much of the country yet. It was nice to have a “house guest” for a change…
An unconventional shower… Not the usual way we do this.
The wonderful waterfall at Rancho Burica…
Back at the Tropenstation La Gamba we encountered a few more interesting animals…
And more coconuts for everyone!
We had a wonderful time in Costa Rica. This country is Pura Vida indeed. Next destination Panama…